Big Kid Candy
Mysterious fog swirling with portent surrounded the cupping table… From the smokey depths arose a sweet fragrance, hints of peach and vanilla wafted through the air. Clouds covered the sky, and wolves howled in the distance. Lightning struck a set of cups, and fate was sealed. Rumor of a certain coffees availability was whispered, and binding contracts were signed while moonlight beamed down on the pen. Big Kid Candy was allliiiiiveeee.
But really. This coffee came to us serendipitously from our good friends at Catalyst Coffee. Emily, Michael, and Zele recently visited us for a few hours to see our new headquarters, and they were nice enough to bring some samples for us to cup. They just happened to have an eighteen bag offering of a screen separation* (more on that later) that became available when it got stateside. This coffee burst with stone fruit and floral notes, making it a very easy buying decision. We then decided to collaborate with Brandywine on a very spooky release, and our Bombe screen 13 lot fit the bill perfectly.
BOMBE RELATIONSHIP by Catalyst Trade:
The producers of Bombe live high in the lush and lovely Bombe mountain valley. They are part of a member organization consisting of 667 producers in various parts of the mountain range, which also include producers from Bombe and Shantawene. We’ve worked with this group since before it was officially founded (more on that below). The last two years, these producers chose to process their coffees through the Bombe Washing Station to our specifications. Like the other coffees from this site, the Bombe coffees are always stand outs on our cupping tables. It is dense coffee, with heavy concentrations of the smaller screen sizes (the majority of the coffee screen sizes at 14 and 15), just a touch larger than the average screen sizes found in the Shantawene and Keramo lots, which also reflects a slightly larger concentration of the Mikicho variety than the other coffees have. Mikicho is easily identified by its larger cherries with wavy leaves, the seeds appearing elongated and canoe-shaped. No doubt, this is a distant relative to the Gesha variety, and the prominent cup characteristics that stand out in all Bombe lots are lush, tropical fruit tones and delicate florals.
Prior to the 2017/18 harvest, this producing group delivered coffee cherries to a different washing station nearby, called Shantawene washing station, where we first encountered the coffees and purchased them as mixed lots. Up until the 2017/2018 harvest, all coffees from Bombe, Keramo and Shantawene villages were processed together and sold under the name of Shantawene. We were noticing different cup dynamics from the cherries that came from different areas, and eventually began to isolate coffees by village. This led to the move to Bombe site washing station and getting even more isolation in the lots. For the past couple seasons, all producers we work with from Bombe, Keramo and Shantawene all deliver cherries to the more centralized Bombe site Abore Washing Station.
We have been purchased screen size separations from Catalyst since they began. Since coffee is an organic product, the seeds of the cherries tend to have a pretty wide variance in size (and shape) and a natural part of coffee production is separating coffee into screen sizes. Mills will separate the coffee to a size 15/16 screen for exporting, and others are either sold as a different grade, or sold off for consumption outside of the specialty market. It is common practice to separate and market screen sizes as grades, rather than only by size. Alongside Catalyst’s other strict quality standards and practices, we see screen separations nearly as separate coffees; these separations will have a wholly different taste profile.
Screen Size Isolation
Though it is very common in other countries, we don’t know anyone else in Ethiopia who isolates screen sizes. To do so, we must be very careful or we will lose an enormous amount of coffee. Zele works with the export warehouse staff to calibrate the flow of coffee and ensure each size is clearly separate. The decision of whether or not to isolate screen sizes is also quite labor intensive: we hand-screen- sort and then cup each screen size several times to determine the difference qualities and characteristics. In general, smaller screen sizes tend to be more floral and herbal, while larger screen sizes tend to be more fruit heavy and juicy.
- Catalyst Coffee
WASHED PROCESSED COFFEES
The washed process begins with coffee cherries delivered to the washing station, both from the primary market or from farmers bringing their coffee directly to the mill. The cherries are inspected, and an initial quick round of hand-sorting separates the defective coffees before placing them into the hopper. They are then funneled to the disc pulper, which removes the fruit from the seeds (beans). After that phase is done, the coffee is fermented underwater for approximately 36 hours, with the water drained and refreshed once in that cycle. Then, the parchment is emptied into the washing channels, where it is agitated with rakes. During this step, the water is refreshed twice. Once the washing is complete, the coffee undergoes the traditional “double wash,” where it rests in the soaking tank for another 12 hours, before being taken to the raised drying tables for sun drying.
Wanna know more about how we brew? Then visit our brew methods page cause "this is how we brew it" (think Montell Jordan when reading that last part).
FILTER – Hario V60
20g Coffee : 300g Water 190°F
~2:30 Drain Time
The bloom should be a light, circular pour that wets all of the coffee.
Each pour can be heavy directly in the middle of the brew bed. No circles necessary, expect a deep valley in the final brew bed with even walls rising up the sides of your brewer.
- Start with 50g bloom 50g
- @0:30s pour 70g 120g
- @1:15 pour 90g 210g
- @2:00 pour 90g 300g
~2:30 Drain Time
We got a little spooky with this recipe, but we promise it pays off. We recommend grinding a little finer than you usually would for a V60 pour over with water a little cooler. The finer grind helps bring out a nice texture, while the V60, coffee, and brew water combine for bright peach and lots of sweetness with a black tea finish. If this coffee drains too quickly, under-extracts, it tastes weak and salty like salty lemon peels. If this coffee drains too long, over-extracts, it tastes muddied with a black tea leaf bitterness covering the flavor and sweetness.
ESPRESSO – Modbar EP
Brew Temp: 198°F, Line Pressure: ~3.5 bars, Max Pressure: 9 bars
Pressure Profile: 0 sec to 4 sec - line pressure, from 4 sec till done - 9 bars
18g in : ~40g out @ ~30s
Some tricks, but mostly treats here with a tasty espresso. A scary amount of peach flavor shone through this recipe with gently cane sugar, black tea, and a super delicious floral rose finish. We tasted this coffee at different doses and ratios but settled into this 18g espresso for its smoothness, sweetness, and gentle floral notes. With higher doses, we found the flavors to be a little too overwhelming, even with milk drinks. If this coffee pulls too quickly, or under-extracts, it tastes vegetal and like a tart salty peach. If this coffee pulls too slowly, or over-extracts, it tastes like a muted peach with an overpowering floral rose note that lingers with bitterness on the tongue.
This is a Relationship Coffee from our friends at Catalyst Coffee. In January of this year, Jon and I (Dakota) were awake for about 36 hours while flying from Arkansas to Addis Ababa. We grabbed a taxi and went straight to the hotel, where Michael had set up a cupping of all the fresh crop offerings they had. We purchased a whole lot of tasty coffee that day, but this lot was not on that table. This was a spot offering that was freed up stateside after we had made our initial purchases. We ended up purchasing eighteen 35-kilo bags of this coffee for $4.75/lb. We cupped this at a spooky 88 points. Six bags of this coffee was sent to Brandywine, and the remaining twelve were sent to a certain basement in Arkansas…
- The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $0.96/lb when we purchased this coffee.
- The Fair Trade Coffee minimum price was $1.60/lb when we purchased this coffee.
* We as a company believe transparency is unbelievably important. However, we decided only to list what is shown here because we don’t know where to stop. Do we list the amount of coffee lost in roasting due to moisture loss? Should we list our roaster Mark's salary? The warehouse rent? The utilities? The point of listing things above is not to justify what we charge or what we profit, but to give a realistic snapshot of the industry and how Specialty Coffee can be different than other commodity industries. If you have concerns feel free to email us and I’ll write you back when I’m available.
Relationship Coffee is an initiative we, at Onyx, have purposely created to describe our sourcing and buying practices and how we document them. Certifications like Direct Trade, Fair Trade, and others have impacted the coffee communities in mostly positive ways but also in some negative ways. We find that blanket terms and applying them to a multitude of business models no longer describes what we do.
In reality, every company is different, and we wanted to step out from the mold and create a new set of standards that exceeds in every department from quality to transparency to pricing. The growers, exporters, importers, associations, cooperatives, and other entities are always a set of relationships. To be honest, many are our friends as much as they are our producers and partners. We share information, family news, meals, housing, many faiths, and argue politics. Oh, and we love it. Relationship Coffee for Onyx is the mark of an honest exchange ethos that permeates our company, and we hope it encourages the growth of specialty coffee for the future.
We visited the farm or cupping lab and listened to the producer/agronomist or head cooperative/association to ascertain better knowledge about the culture and practices.
We cupped the coffee, and it scored to our industry-high standards.
We do not buy futures or multiple harvests to ensure that what we cupped for that year is what we serve.
We do not ask for exclusivity from producers, binding their options.
We pay what the coffee is worth. This always is at least double Fair Trade minimum due to the quality we buy, and many times is three to ten times the amount.
We do not finance any coffee. Cash flow is just as important as the final price. Coffee is paid in full upon delivery, and we pay a percentage upfront upon contracting.
We are completely transparent from price to logistics to cupping score, to who we work with buying and shipping coffee.
We work to set premiums after a contracted price to incentivize quality and community building. This can be .10¢ - .25¢ extra per pound or community projects such as school supplies in the growing village, sports jerseys, vented chimneys for kitchen fires, etc.